Listen up, kids, networking really works!

I remember hearing about “networking” when I was in high school and thinking it was a stupid concept. Why would meeting people ever help you get a job? Wouldn’t your own talents, experience, and education be enough?! Sadly, I was very, very wrong. It turns out that knowing someone on the inside of an organization does indeed make it easier to get your foot in the door.

I’m not saying that networking can get you a job. The best anyone can do is help you get an interview. Then it’s up to you to impress the hiring manager. But having someone vouch for you is extremely helpful – it makes your resume stand out among the rest.

Do you use LinkedIn? I have found myself once again in the position of needing a job. As soon as I heard the news about my current company being in a state of uncertainty, as my friend Jamie says, I went on LinkedIn and updated my profile to include my recent job transition. You see, after 20 months of contracting, I was recently hired on as a permanent employee. I know that one value of LinkedIn is that recruiters use it to find new talent. I wanted those recruiters to know about my place of employment, so they would contact me when they heard the company’s news. It worked, by the end of that first day I had been contacted by at least 6 recruiters.

I worked with a recruiter when I got my contracting gig, and consulting firms/staffing agencies are really nothing more than borrowing someone else’s network. They can get you an interview at companies you might not be able to get into otherwise. I was once too proud to let someone else make money off of my employment. Not anymore! I know the value of good connections. Within 3 days of talking to my former recruiter, I had a phone interview scheduled. From my own online applications, I had nothing!

Another value of LinkedIn is in keeping track of your own professional network. In talking with a current coworker, I learned that she had applied to a company that sounded familiar. I pulled up my LinkedIn contacts, and sure enough I knew the hiring manager for the job she was seeking. I was able to message this former coworker and give her a heads up that my current coworker had applied for her position. She answered that she’d keep any eye out for the application and try to interview her. Hopefully my recommendation aids her in getting the interview.

LinkedIn is also helpful when trying to learn more about potential coworkers at a company you are interested in. At least in IT in the Milwaukee area, it seems like everyone knows everyone and jumps from company to company, so I have found future coworkers or bosses among the secondary contact in my network. I then reach out to my primary contacts (people I know personally) to request more information about them. I know that the interview process goes both ways. I want to make sure that the job is the right fit for me as well, and coworkers and bosses are a huge part of the job experience.

My sister, Emily, has mentioned several times that she needs me to show her how to use LinkedIn. There isn’t really much to know. Fill out your work history; I have all of the bullet points from my resume plus some additional information describing various projects I have worked on. Then start connecting with people you know, just like Facebook! Connect with former coworkers, current coworkers, friends, neighbors. People in your industry are especially helpful, but you never know when you might want to change careers. Connect with people you enjoyed working with and respect, but also with people you wouldn’t want to work with again. Then you can keep tabs on where they end up. It’s helpful to get a feel for a company’s culture based on people you know who work there.

It’s a good idea to keep your LinkedIn profile (and resume) up to date all the time. You never know when you might be job hunting! I know I never expected to be looking this soon after taking a new position.

This blog is not affiliated with LinkedIn.

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